The Forsyth County Sheriff’s Office is now the owner of a single-family home in west Forsyth, whose former residents the agency described as repeat drug offenders.
According to the sheriff’s office, Forsyth County Superior Court awarded it the two-story, 2,500-square-foot home in Sawnee View Farms on Oct. 29.
The house, which has a basement and sits on a half-acre lot, has been valued at about $258,000, according to county tax records.
The sheriff’s office believes this is the first time in recent memory that a house has been given to the county based on criminal activity.
The agency filed forfeiture paperwork on the home after the occupants had been arrested numerous times for drug violations going back to 1999.
In the most recent incident, the homeowner, 47-year-old Kelly Bruce Wheeler, and 32-year-old Toni Michelle Armstrong were arrested Aug. 22 for possession of methamphetamine with intent to distribute.
At the time, according to county court records, Wheeler was serving a seven-year probation sentence on the same charge after pleading guilty in April 2011. He also received some jail time.
Sheriff Duane K. Piper said the home has been a haven for drug activity for years.
“They go to jail. They go to prison. They come back to the same place and start the same thing over again,” Piper said. “Drastic steps had to be taken in this situation.”
“We ended up going after the house itself because it was not just his drug use, but the fact that the house was constantly used and the constant traffic in and out.”
At any given time, Piper said, there could have been anywhere from 10 people to just Wheeler living at the home.
Despite the sheriff’s office taking ownership of the home, the agency still must undergo legal eviction proceedings to expel the people living in what he characterized as a “transient drug house.”
The home will eventually be put on the market, hopefully with an agent, but Piper said the sale will yield little, if any, profit.
The agency must first pay of the liens and mortgages against the property, which total about half the value of the house, he said. They will also pay the costs of the required legal proceedings.
Any remaining money would be handled through the legal guidelines of drug seizure funds.
The home was awarded to the sheriff’s office in a consent judgment, which states Wheeler agreed to forfeit the property.
According to Piper, first-time visitors to the subdivision would never guess what type of activity was going on inside. But while it appeared to be a nice family home, the neighbors were well aware. They eagerly await the eviction and the resale of the house, he said.
“It’s a drastic measure. It’s not a first option by any means,” Piper said of the decision to take the home.
“I’m very sensitive to property rights and government seizing private property in any form. But this particular house has been such a problem for so long that something drastic had to happen for the sake of the community and the specific neighborhood.”